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How young is too young for social media? Surgeon general provides guidance

Posted at 3:04 PM, Jan 30, 2023

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy thinks many children are signing onto social media networks at ages far too young for the platforms.

"I, personally, based on the data I've seen, believe that 13 is too early,” Murthy said on CNN. “It's a time where it's really important for us to be thoughtful about what's going into how they think about their own self-worth and their relationships and the skewed and often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of those children.”

Most major social media networks, including Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, allow children to have their own social media pages beginning at age 13.

Research published earlier this month indicates children who habitually sign onto social media at age 12 can see a change in their brain’s sensitivity to social rewards and punishments.

“Adolescent social media use has proliferated extensively in the past decade. This longitudinal cohort study suggests that social media behaviors in early adolescence may be associated with changes in adolescents’ neural development, specifically neural sensitivity to potential social feedback,” wrote the authors of the University of North Carolina study.

The Mayo Clinicsuggested there could be some benefits to social media usage.

“Social media that's humorous or distracting or provides a meaningful connection to peers and a wide social network might even help teens avoid depression,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

But overuse of social media usage by teenagers has been associated with high levels of depression and anxiety, the Mayo Clinic noted.

Murthy recommends parents try to keep their kids from joining social media platforms until closer to adulthood.

"If parents can band together and say, you know, as a group, we're not going to allow our kids to use social media until 16 or 17 or 18 or whatever age they choose, that's a much more effective strategy in making sure your kids don't get exposed to harm early," he told CNN.